In case you haven't noticed, I am a fan of Josh Donaldson. In my opinion, he has the best swing of all the Athletics, and it really isn't all that close. When I saw how well Donaldson was swinging the bat early in the year, I made a prediction on his production that I got pretty darn close. But apparently there is another hitter across the bay that is pretty good. So let's compare their swings.
First a few ground rules. We are only talking swings - not who is the best overall hitter, player, teammate, whatever. As I have said before and will say again, A LOT goes into hitting including timing, vision, athleticism, ballpark, approach, and yes luck. So if I say Player A has a better swing than Player B, don't be all "Then why does Player B have more two out triples than Player A?" Second, I will be only showing one swing, but I have many swings of each player and will only point out consistent patterns. Third, both players have awesome swings. I am going be doing extreme nitpicking, equivalent to pointing out a scratched license plate on a Ferrari. Last, I am an A's fan and this is an A's site, so Donaldson is going to win.
Ok. Let's take a look at home run swings of Josh Donaldson and Buster Posey synced at contact.
We can see a lot of similarities. Both employ a leg lift. Both have a strong movement toward the pitcher. Both have tremendous upper body function in launching the bat. So to decide a winner, we will have to slow down the swings and look at them in segments.
Gaining control of the stride with the rear leg
As I have stated before, I feel this is a very important (and misunderstood) part of the swing. Both hitters gain control of the stride with the rear leg very well. They are setting up their lower halves to drive the stride powerfully. Donaldson gets tremendous rear hip activation which allows him a forceful movement forward. Donaldson's hip bend also sets his eye level to its final position. Donaldson does start the inward turn of the front leg a little early and little aggressively. This could put him in a disadvantaged position later in terms of adjusting for off-speed pitches. Posey movements are a little more controlled. He stays pretty tall throughout the movement, meaning he will dynamically set his hip bend and eye line. Posey also waits to incorporate his front leg's inward movement a little longer. Winner: Posey. Close, but Donaldson is just a little aggressive. I actually prefer Donaldson's move more, but it is harder to do consistently.
Hitting tip: Notice how each hitter's rear hip starts working forward even with the front leg going back or up. For more on this, check out this article on a movement I call the breakaway.
Really nice movements here by Donaldson and Posey. Both get a strong drive toward the pitcher with the back leg. Donaldson is again a little more aggressive with a longer stride, but he does it in the same time meaning he is moving quicker. Donaldson is opening up the front side just a fraction early due to the magnitude of the inward coil. For normal humans this makes it difficult to adjust to varying pitch speeds, but hasn't seemed to affect Donaldson (if I had to guess, I would say Donaldson has off-charts hip mobility). Posey has just a hint of rearward tip with the upper body. This is definitely non-ideal, but some guys can get away with it (Posey, Chris Davis) but some guys can't (Kooz). For the upper body movements, we again see the contrast in styles. Posey: quiet, controlled, Donaldson: aggressive. Winner: Donaldson. Love the aggressive drive of Donaldson. I am knocking Posey on the rearward tilt. And I think Posey's upper body recruitment is just a little muted.
Hitting tip: Notice how both players have a strong movement forward toward the pitcher. Neither hitter is "keeping the weight back" or "sitting back" as you hear way too often. For a super-technical breakdown of Posey's stride, watch this video.
This one is pretty easy, I absolutely love the way Donaldson launches the bat. Posey does it nicely as well, but Donaldson's move is a little bigger and involves more muscle for power. I have shown before Donaldson has really improved how he launches the bat from 2012. Both hitters have impeccable front side mechanics, especially Donaldson's front shoulder movement. In my opinion, these frames are the portion of the swing that really separates the very good from the elite. Winner: Donaldson.
Hitting tip: Notice how A LOT happens in the swing before the hands start to move. The hitters use the big muscles of the body to get the swing started before using the small muscles. Also see how the rear elbow works straight down instead of toward the ball. For more on this, check out this video.
The swing is by and large on auto-pilot now, so grading this portion of the swing is kinda silly. One thing of note is how perfect Donaldson's spine angle is compared to the tilting Posey. Both players have really nice contact position as the result of great swings. Winner: Donaldson. Just perfect.
Hitting tip: You can notice both hitters have a slight uppercut to their swing. The bat head gets below the ball two frames before contact. Neither hitter is "staying on top of the ball." Also notice the magnitude of the hip rotation. Both hitters have their belt buckle pointed toward the pitcher by contact. Neither is "staying closed."
I don't worry about the follow through as much as most people, mostly because the ball is already gone. It is true the finish can have an impact on the swing if a cue can click with a hitter causing an upstream change, but by-and-large the follow-through and finish is vastly over-emphasized. Winner: Donaldson. Both hitters have basically the same finish, but the one-handed finish of Donaldson looks sexier.
Hitting tip: Don't worry about your follow through.
So there we have it! Donaldson: 4, Posey: 1. The first ever Battle of the Bay Swing-Off goes to Josh Donaldson! Congrats to the Bringer of Rain!